How to Show Up as a Better Leader During Chaotic Times

How To Show Up As a Better Leader During Chaotic Times

Do you ever feel like us? Sometimes we just look at one another and say, “Why are we so tired?” Leading in chaotic times is exhausting.

But when it comes right down to it, one of the biggest reasons is all the uncertainty and contingency planning.

“If there’s a vaccine by then we’ll hold our event this way … and if not, let’s plan for an entirely different approach.”

“We will go in THIS direction unless THAT happens, and then, of course, we’ll need to do THAT instead. Can you build it out both ways?”

“We desperately need leadership training. And we’ve selected you …” (that’s the good news).

“But first, we have to see if …” (and all we head into another hopeful holding pattern).”

And your contingencies depend on THEIR contingencies. And the vortex of chaotic times continues.

How to Ensure You Show Up as a Better Leader During Chaotic Times

You just don’t know what you’re going to show up to tomorrow.

But you do have a very important choice: How you show up.

One of the best ways to become a better leader is to DECIDE how you want to show up.

No matter what.

Consistently.

Regardless of what happens next.

To lead from your own playbook.

You can’t always choose WHAT you show up to,

but you can always choose HOW you show up.

When Karin was teaching in the MBA program at the University of Maryland, one of her favorite assignments was helping her students articulate their values and operating principles by building their “leadership credo”(click here for a step-by-step guide to this activity which you can easily adapt for a Zoom team-builder).

We take a similar approach in our long-term leadership programs by helping leaders build their personalized leadership playbook. They reflect on and articulate their leadership values, operating principles, and what they want to be known for—their leadership legacy.

We then take the conversation a step deeper as we talk about scenarios that make it challenging to show up as this best version of themselves. And how they can help one another overcome those challenges.

Then, when the chaos ensues, we encourage leaders to pause and control what they can control: how they show up. Because they’ve got the playbook.

Your Personalized Leadership Playbook

And so we share this tool with you, to help you (and your team) build your own leadership playbook for thriving during chaotic times. Let us know how it goes. We’d love to have you share your aspirational leadership legacy with us in the comments. Feel free to use this playbook with your team. You can download the PDF here.

 

Your Turn:

What’s your aspirational leadership legacy. For what do you want to be remembered as a leader?

how to lead rapid change

How To Lead In The Midst Of Urgent, Rapid Change And Strain

Lead through rapid change with calm clarity.

When he started work that week, “Aaron” didn’t know that he’d be asked to guide his team through a Coronavirus response, but within just a few days the situation was urgent. Major clients were making changes quickly. Like many leaders throughout the world, Aaron found himself having to lead through rapid change.

We happened to be in his office that morning as Aaron brought together his leadership team to communicate the next steps. We watched as he gracefully led his team through the day’s urgent situation. The entire office worked with clarity, focus, and resolve. The same principles Aaron used to lead through rapid change will work for you.

As you and your team respond to the rapidly evolving realities of this problem (or the next one):

1. Over-communicate clear, precise actions.

Aaron’s first message was very clear: “We need to call every client, ask them this question … and give them this information.”

Keep it simple. Check for understanding and be ready to repeat what matters most—frequently. When your people are worried and stressed themselves, communication is more challenging. Even with this seemingly straightforward request, there were several questions.

Aaron patiently and confidently reiterated the task: “A phone call to every client. Voice to voice communication is our MIT (Most Important Thing) here. If we can’t do that, we’ll use email for a backup. But #1, #2, and #3 is a phone call. Ask them this … tell them this …”

Focus on clear, concise communication that leaves no doubt about who will do what and by when.

2. Acknowledge emotion.

Ignoring emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes them stronger. When you have to lead through rapid change and stressful circumstances, acknowledge how everyone feels.

Aaron looked at his team and said, “I know this is scary and there are a lot of things we don’t know. We have a plan for today. If anyone needs to talk with me individually, I’m here.”

If you’re not sure, you can also take a moment to ask how everyone is feeling. Acknowledge their emotions e.g. “It’s normal to feel nervous or upset in times like this.”

3. Focus on what you do know and what you can do.

Clarity is the antidote to uncertainty.

You don’t have to know everything. Focus on what you do know, on the next steps, on what needs to happen next, and the process going forward. You may not know what will happen or what decisions will be, but you can be 100% clear about what you know and what you will do next.

4. Communicate your confidence.

One of our favorite parts of this meeting was when Aaron told his team, “I know there’s a lot going on and this is on top of all the other things we’ve normally got to take care of—and I know you’re up to it. If you need help, I’m here.”

Your belief in your people becomes their confidence in themselves.

Next, Aaron shared an analogy that he’d learned from a mentor:

As a leader, you’re like a flight attendant during turbulence. When the plane shakes in the air, everyone looks at that flight attendant. If they’re joking or reading on their phone, everyone relaxes. If they’re upset, everyone panics. Your job today is to be that calm flight attendant for your team.

In talking with Aaron, he had his own concerns, but he modeled this “be the flight attendant” approach beautifully. Your team will take their cue from you.

5. Address concerns.

Aaron then took questions from his team. Some involved the work, some focused on personal concerns, and internal company procedures and response. Where he had information, he shared it. Where plans were being developed, he was clear about the process and that how he would inform everyone when the time came. When concerns were more personal, he met with those team members individually.

When you have to lead through rapid change or stressful circumstances, you often don’t know what you’ll show up to—but as a leader you always choose how you’ll show up. Your team needs you to be clear, calm, focused, and connected.

You don’t know what you’ll show up to, but you choose how you’ll show up.

Your Best Way to Lead Through Rapid Change

We’d love to hear from you: leave us a comment and share your best practice for leading through urgent, rapid change. 


You might also like:

Leading When Life is Out of Control (podcast)

How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

7 Ways to Lead Well During Times of Uncertainty and Change